The secular left is a diverse amalgam of various interest groups and ideologies. Of course, the same is true to some extent on the conservative end of the spectrum as well. But on some issues the secular left is absolutely of one mind and voice, and the promotion of birth control and contraception is one of these issues.
To the left, birth control is central to the modern project of liberation. Pregnancy and parenthood limit other endeavors, to say the very least. The project of liberating sex from marriage and sex within marriage from reproduction is central to the modern quest for autonomy. The Pill allowed a radical expansion in non-marital sex, for example, now freed from concern about pregnancy. The Pill represented a moral revolution of incalculable magnitude.
For the feminist movement, support for birth control and abortion on demand is rooted in the explicit desire to "level the playing field" with men. The Pill, feminists announced, was the liberation of women from the problem of an unwanted and untimely pregnancy. If an unwanted pregnancy did occur, abortion on demand would resolve that problem.
This drive for reproductive control is a central obsession of the left, and it has infected many who would otherwise classify themselves as conservative as well. It also explains what is going on with the decision of the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] to allow the morning-after pill to be sold over the counter to girls as young as 17.
That announcement came April 22, and is the essence of brevity for a governmental agency:
On March 23, 2009, a federal court issued an order directing the FDA, within 30 days, to permit the Plan B drug sponsor to make Plan B available to women 17 and older without a prescription. The government will not appeal this decision. In accordance with the court’s order, and consistent with the scientific findings made in 2005 by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA notified the manufacturer of Plan B informing the company that it may, upon submission and approval of an appropriate application, market Plan B without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older. Plan B is manufactured by Duramed Research, Inc. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
"Plan B" is the commercial name of the morning-after pill (levonorgestrel). The tablet is indeed a form of birth control, and some believe it potentially to be an abortifacient. According to the Plan B Web site, the pill works this way: "Plan B contains two pills taken 12 hours apart that contain a higher dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone found in many birth control pills that healthcare professionals have been prescribing for more than 35 years. Plan B works in a similar way to prevent pregnancy."
The commercial name of the pill just about says it all. When "Plan A" doesn't work, use "Plan B." Plan A, we should note, means using birth control. No one in these circles would dare suggest that Plan A should mean not having sex.
Last month, a federal court judge in Manhattan ordered the FDA to allow over-the-counter sale of Plan B to girls as young as 17, reversing a Bush administration policy. The left erupted in celebration. The New York Times published an editorial declaring, "Judge Edward R. Korman wisely ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the pill available without prescription to women as young as 17 and to consider approving it for girls of any age, as major medical groups have long advocated."
That's right, "girls of any age." Today, with the FDA decision just released, the Times celebrates the news with this lead: "Seventeen-year-olds will soon be allowed to buy morning-after contraceptive pills without a doctor’s prescription after federal drug regulators complied with a judge’s order and lowered the age limit by a year."
The paper went on to report:
Like their older counterparts, 17-year-old women will now be able to go to almost any pharmacy, clinic or hospital and, after showing proof of age, buy Plan B without a prescription. Men 17 and older may also buy Plan B for a partner.
So females of 17 are now "women" and 17-year-old males are now "men." This is made necessary by the logic of the paper's worldview. They argue that these young people are old enough to make this decision alone, without parental oversight or medical advice.
The paper further explained:
Contraception advocates have pushed for easy access to Plan B for girls and women of all ages because the longer a woman delays in taking the medicine after unprotected sex, the more likely she will become pregnant. Eliminating doctors from the transactions, it was hoped, would lead to far fewer pregnancies and abortions.
Again, note the "of all ages" reference. In the March 24 editorial, the paper included this sentence: "The harder question is whether to remove all age and other restrictions, potentially allowing children as young as 11 or 12 to take the drug without medical supervision." As young as 11 or 12?
Following this logic, 11-year-old girls will now be 11-year-old women, able to purchase Plan B from the pharmacy without a prescription (and long before they can legally drive themselves to the pharmacy).
Today, the paper began its editorial with this:
In a further break from the Bush administration’s ideologically driven policies on birth control, the Food and Drug Administration has agreed to let 17-year-olds get the morning-after emergency contraceptive pills without a doctor’s prescription. It is a wise move that complies with a recent order by a federal judge, based on voluminous evidence in F.D.A. files that girls that young can use the pills safely.
Here is a clue - whenever anyone (including this writer) claims that a policy reversal means a break from someone else's "ideologically driven policies," it simply means that one ideology is replacing or modifying another. The New York Times is the central media organ of the secular left. It is as ideologically driven as any other sector of this society. Furthermore, the idea that any serious policy discussion can be free from ideology is a farce. The editors of The New York Times merely prefer their own ideology to that of the Bush administration, yet they write this editorial as if they have come from their own private planet of ideological purity.
One key insight into the paper's ideology: Note the references in both editorials and news reports to the claim that evidence proves that young girls "can use the pills safely." Clearly, the paper means to speak of medical safety. But what about other aspects of these girls' lives? Is it morally safe? Spiritually safe? Safe to a tender heart?
No, the main issue in the FDA policy is this - safe from parental supervision. The morning after pill is now a potent symbol of the end of parenthood as we know it.